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Everything is Awful There is Still Joy
sleep is for the wise and resilient
After a much needed and very elusive solid and continuous night of sound sleep, I awoke feeling refreshed, like the layers of heaviness I’d felt brooding within me had been lifted away from me. Everything is awful, there is still joy.
Past few days I have stewed in the awful part at the expense of the joy part, an easy thing to do in these times. The collective battles I’m participating in seem so long and slow moving. And I remember chattel slavery lasted 4 centuries. That abolitionists led revolts and lost their lives, that generations lived under that brutality. And I remember that suffragettes fought for years to win the vote and other rights we now take for granted. That holocaust survivors lived through a decade or more of hateful terror with no seeming end in sight, and watched friends and family die. That apartheid in South Africa lasted decades. The human condition has brought us to this place before–battling tyranny, the lies and manipulation that enable it, and the fear that enforces it.
My city, Vancouver, faces an ongoing housing and homelessness crisis, 2 pandemics, a gang war, and growing violence. Weak wokified political leadership at every level of governance often leaves me with a feeling of deep despair. A look around the world tells me others must feel this too.
And yet we keep calm and carry on. What else is there to do, really? We have our little ragefest rant sessions, we make tea, or we mindlessly binge-watch our favourite fare on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Apple TV, we go outside and play, we have a nap, we go for a smoke, we make art. Whatever. We make lemonade from the lemons placed in front of us (see a previous missive about making lemonade). And we get up, we pull our adult pants on, and we keep calm and carry on. Feelings are feelings and we feel them without making a big saga over it. Sleep is immensely important, and I believe our society underestimates just how vital. Truly, most anything that ails you can be vastly improved or by sleep. As a former nurse I can’t really stress this enough—the importance of sleep to health and healing especially. Sleep is not for the weak. Sleep is for the wise and resilient.
So this morning I awoke feeling renewed. Ramadan is coming to an end and whilst I have had to tailor my fasting due to ongoing vagal irritation that causes frightful physical side effects which lengthy periods without food exacerbate, however there are other things to focus on aside from eating restriction. Intentionality.
During my first Ramadan, 3 years ago, I began to focus on intentionality in earnest, and travelled up a learning curve of self discovery as I examined my own intentions in my endeavours. Ego vs God/Truth. Choosing ego feels glamourous because dopamine hits. Choosing truth feels like swimming upstream because often people will hate you for it. What is truth worth to you? Can I become my own source of validation, in a world that wants me to feed myself from a decadent diet of external validation? Each Ramadan has become an opportunity to renew that self-examination. This month I have achieved progress in some ways that will become evident. On the artistic front. On the writing front. My relationship with myself has become important in healing from trauma and in facing menopause. It affords a clarity, like unlocking new levels in a video game.
I decided this morning that, rather than sit on the retaining wall at the edge of the property, I would walk to the riverfront by the picnic area and sit by the river to have my smoke. Along the way I noticed some white irises had cropped up amongst the purple and lavender and plum and gold blooms near the tracks. I watch a hummingbird, I saw a red breasted robin, birdsong filled the air and I could see very few people. A perfect, chilly and sunny spring Monday morning at 6:30 am.
I sat in the wet, dewy grass amongst the tiny pink clover flowers and watched a goose perched on a stationary industrial boat calling for it’s mate. And I could hear the mate responding from below, through the thicket of green that obscured my view. The cries of the unseen goose grew closer and closer, until it came into view. The goose on the boat, strutting about and calling, eventually spotted it’s mate, then swooped down, landing on it’s mate’s backside in the water, plopping itself in the water and the pair swam off out of sight. I saw a Seaspan tugboat tugging a barge container filled with construction equipment down the river. I watched the traffic on the the Richmond side of the river. As I reached the end of my smoke, people started to populate the park. I stood up, my ass felt wet—oh well hehe, and made my way back to my flat.
I thought about how things truly are awful in Canada right now, on a socio-political level. And I thought about how, this morning, right now, I feel that and still feel the joy that exists all around me. Everything seems better when you are outdoors. Especially after having lost so much—and yes living through the restrictions that Covid-19 management has imposed upon us has felt like a loss to many, it isn’t just about loss of life there are multiple levels of loss—seeing what still remains, ie nature, feels grounding and hopeful.